THE BLOG
06/05/2015 15:07 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 06:59 BST

#InMyShoes: Why You Should Give a Damn About Justice This Election

Like most, I believe that the right to a fair trial is the cornerstone of civilised and democratic society. A recent YouGov poll indicated that the public consider access to justice a more pressing concern than free healthcare- and yet we have heard next to nothing on this topic during the election period. This last government put into place cuts to the justice system that have been unanimously declared disastrous by the legal industry, human rights groups, and even the Public Accounts Committee alike.

I understand that law is not perceived as a particularly cool or accessible topic. Most of us close our eyes and our ears when there's mention of the justice system; this subject is someone else's job. But you don't need to be versed in the intricacies of the legal system to be aware of what the continued decimation of it could mean for this country, and to question whether it is right that access to justice should be determined by the depth of your wallet.

At a time when we're facing a housing crisis that favours exploitative landlords, and a bedroom tax that sees the most vulnerable families evicted from their homes, civil legal aid for such cases has all but vanished. As cuts are implemented that see women's shelters and services throughout the country closing, one third of domestic violence victims are now unable to get the legal help they need because of the new hoops they must jump through. Victims must go through the humiliating and often expensive systems of 'proof' of abuse before they can access representation, or they are forced to face the prospect of being cross-examined by their own abusers in court.

At a time when the government has hacked away at the welfare system, the most desperate of those in our country are those who now have the very least access to legal redress. We have seen time and time again that decisions on welfare eligibility and benefits sanctions have been cruel and unfair - and even fatal - and the chance for individuals to challenge these decisions has been taken from them.

With an employment crisis that is being poorly addressed through precarious methods such as zero hours contracts, employment tribunal rules work ever more in the employer's favour. The number of claims made has dropped by 70% since tribunal fees were introduced in 2013, and it is no wonder: someone who has just lost their job is unlikely to spend their final pay cheque on such fees.

We are building a world where we cannot hold those with power to account for their actions - building a country where we cannot even challenge the state through judicial review. How can we claim to provide the right to a fair trial in this country when ordinary people are forced to represent themselves in a criminal court against a state-funded professional prosecution? How can we stand on an international platform and celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, or criticise the human rights abuses of other states, when these cuts arguably violate the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights by creating economic barriers to justice? How is this defensible in one of the largest economies in the world?

We know that the Conservatives would make further cuts to the justice system were they given a second term. Labour and the Lib Dems have made no pledges on the topic. The Greens remain the only party to have explicitly mentioned reversing these cuts. With all this in mind, how important do you consider justice in this election?

Part of the BBC initiative, #InMyShoes for @InMyUK. Join the conversation on Twitter, watch more of our videos on YouTube and find us on Facebook.

This blog was written Francesca Lord, who's a BBC Generation 2015 contributor. Her views are entirely her own.